The Duck softball team plays a wicked game of small ball. Early in a recent game against Utah, Alyssa Gillespie walked and the next batter Jenna Lilley singled and Gillespie scored. Later in the game, Janie Takeda singled and stole second. Lilley again knocked her in with a triple.
As can be inferred, the tactic works best when a team has excellent pitching, and for Oregon that means starters Cheridan Hawkings and Karissa Hovinga.
Oregon doesn’t always need to play small, however. As a team, they hit for an excellent average of .367 and in the series against the Beavers the Ducks scored a University record of 23 runs.
But even against Oregon State, coach Mike White played aggressively. In the first game of the series, which Oregon won 10-0, catcher Janelle Lindvall laid down a perfect bunt, a dribbler down the first base foul line that not only scored the runner but also earned her a hit.
The downside to small ball is that aggressive base runners get thrown out by opposing pitchers. Against Utah, Gillespie was caught stealing twice and Lilley once. In the early season swing down south, the Ducks had successive runners thrown out trying to steal second. The next batter hit safely and two potential runs were wasted.
In the final analysis though, small ball is necessary if Oregon hopes to win the meat-grinder known as the Pac-12. SEC teams may sneer, but Pac-12 teams own a quarter of the positions in the NCAA softball rankings and have won eight of the past 12 national championships.
Count on Oregon playing small ball and winning games by hook or crook.
Top Photo by Dave Peaks